Monday, October 01, 2007



POTUS means “President of the United States”—A new XM channel geared to deliver 24/7 unbiased coverage of the upcoming election. It was Hugh Panero’s idea…
Even though he’s not on site, he’s all over the thing. I think it’ll get a good head of steam as we get closer to the election and evolve into a pretty cool one stop shop for election info from the windbag to the cerebral. I'm especially excited about the use of classic election sound from the Roosevelt era. The channel takes advantage of theater of the mind—taking the topic from boring to soaring.

Celebrity Crimes Against Man: Brett Michaels has a show on one of the MTV offshoots. The skankiest circa 1986 girls on the planet vie to be his girlfriend. This show is actually worse than the Captain & Tennille show or the Alan Thicke Show for those who remember. It is a new definition for television garbage. Some shows are so bad they're effectively amusing. This one doesn't even go there. I'm sure there's some "buzz" but like with all junk culture, it’ll be short lived and at the end of the day more of a stain than a positive contributor to the channel's image and future.
Brett should hang more with Nikki Sixx. Nikki wrote a book. On the Times Best seller list. If you haven't had a big hit in 20 years, there are other ways to circulate your history. Of course little kids and the terminally stupid will watch this and find some cheap pleasure in it, but most North Americans have SOME junk filter where you watch it with a wink and an eye roll. I'm Amazed at how something tragically awful actually makes it into the National airwaves. EXPLICIT LYRICS ARE NOT THE "PROBLEM"...EXPLICIT STUPID is infinitely more dangerous. I'm always into presenting the public with what they want---But this ain't it.

New You Tube competitor coming on line soon. HULU. Sounds pretty whacky, though actually it’s a joint venture between Fox and NBC Universal. Interesting how “hip” meaningless names are. I think it’s a GOOD thing. A few years ago everything was very straight forward…and dull. Nowadays the most traditional companies are going for names that feel right though may be nonsensical. United Airlines has Ted, Air Canada has Jazz, then of course Google and Yahoo. Throughout my radio career I’ve been a proponent of station names that simply sound cool, in sync with the target and are easy to remember and produce. Usually got a “you cant do that”. Even at XM there was pushback on names like Fred, Squizz and America. Reminds me of the time John Lennon was asked why they called their label Apple. He replied that they liked it better than Orange. More people need to think like the Beatles.

Names come under testing the untestable. I really doubt if Google tested that name. If they had, I’ll bet it would have come out “MegaSearch” or something average like that. That’s the problem with testing untestables—you end up with Average. And Average sucks.

Speaking of the Beatles, I rediscovered their Anthologies. Especially the early and demo versions of their classics. A real lesson in music production as you hear the songs in their early stages. I then listen A/B with the final. Fascinating stuff. Any radio producer, musician or fan should go through that exercise. Inspiring. Timeless—pure musical brilliance. As time passes, you forget about how completely amazing they were. Everything fired on all cylinders. Practically a musical fluke.

Another timeless thing is that there’s a “new” Bob Dylan Greatest Hits package out, called “Dylan”. Not really into greatest hits packages since I have all of the ‘greatest hits’ on the original release anyways. Come to think about it, “Greatest hits’ is pretty goofy in itself. Very K-Tel. In any case, this is a really good collection for anyone who needs Dylan101. Any ANYone who hasn’t experienced Dylan music beyond the “radio songs” should listen. I mean, Hendrix used to carry around Dylan lyrics in a book for inspiration, and I have yet to meet a single artist of stature that doesn’t look to Bob Dylan as a songwriter and poet of the ages. I DO run into people who know “Lay Lady Lay” and not much beyond that. If you know of that person---give him or her this CD. Even those who “don’t like his voice” but haven’t really experienced him will find this package enlightening.

Sex Pistols are re-uniting. Big deal. They stunk then and I imagine they’ll stink more now. Saw them live when they first came out. God, they were pathetic. Of course radio got blamed for their lack of success in the USA, but in reality, everything they stood for was 180 degrees from the American music mainstream. For example:

PISTOLS: Tell Led Zeppelin to step aside. They’re old farts.
REALITY: we worshipped Led Zeppelin

PISTOLS: We can’t play a note---Musicianship is bullshit
REALITY: America cherished great players. Hendrix was still a God.

PISTOLS: Long hair is for wussies. Kill a Hippy.
REALITY: Long hair was cool

PISTOLS: Anarchy! Kill the Queen
REALITY: Why? She seems OK. Peace and Love

PISTOLS: Rough…back to basics. Screw the slick shit
REALITY: FM Radio made the rough stuff unlistenable

…you get the idea. Punk can be cool—I thought they were simply …bad.

Went on another pizza Flight to New Haven with Rob Johnston and the lovely Trinity who oversees our Jazz Cluster. Pepe’s. The place rules. Saturday I visited Potomac Approach Control. A “Tracon”—an Air Traffic Control Facility. Went last year. They have an open house for pilots. Fascinating place...Reminds me of NORAD as portrayed in War Games. A lot of civilians think the Air Traffic System is scary. In reality it’s incredibly organized and efficient. The volume of air traffic that is seamlessly handled is astounding. You really get blown away by the whole scene at this facility. Very professional and extraordinarily organized. Pilots---especially around Washington like to whine about the FAA, but those guys are just doin' their job--and well. They are faced with more bureaucracy, BS from their appointed administrators and politics than any of us will experience in a lifetime

One thing I wish is that ALL radio took the same attitude toward new artists as in the past. Nowadays, it’s generally fed by trade papers, flawed and dated research techniques and assumptions instead of grooves. Actually--it's really laziness--lack of attention. Being satisfied with what the trades, the labels or 'the other guy' is doing...
While I’m completely burned out on some of these, I remember with great vivivity, the discovery of certain artists that went on to great fame:

BOSTON: A guy named Paul Ahearn played me a Boston demo cassette in a hotel room. They’ll be big he said. I wanted to go downstairs...he said...NO! Wait! He was right.

ROD STEWART: A DJ played a whole side of Rod Stewart Album on the all night show so he could hit the john. Next morning there were 200 requests for the album cut Maggie May.

YES: Heard an AM Underground DJ names China Valles on WGBS-AM/Miami play Yes. Even on AM—blew me away. That was an odd station. Middle of the road all day…then suddenly they’d go “underground”.

POLICE: While in the UK for 3 months kept hearing the Police. Came back to the US saying (to often deaf ears) that this WASN'T some no talent band riding the New Wave thing —but an incredible group. Melodies, great musicianship, all the tools.

GENESIS: Heard “The Knife” from their second album on BBC Short Wave. Worse than AM…through the static, it sounded great. I guess amazing music sounds good under any conditions. A long time friend Roy Thomas Baker produced an army of Classic albums as well as the latest Smashing Pumpkins. Great guy---amazing producer. I once spilled Red Wine on his unbelievable expensive white carpet at his Hollywood home. Thank God we played a lot of Cars music—so he didn’t get too pissed off. Anyways, he once said he’d audition projects by listening to demos on a terrible mono cassette player and if they sounded good on that, it made the grade.

SKYNYRD: Tried to pick up some redneck girls at the pool at the Imperial House Hotel in Metairie, LA where client WRNO was based. They kept talking about “Free Bird” over and over and over. Listened to it—I didn’t get it---but what the hell, we played it—almost wish we hadn’t!

Back then you could also listen to regional stations and hear new stuff that hadn’t broken Nationally yet. I remember hearing “Journey to the Center of the Mind” on CKLW and importing that…or local band Heart getting action on our client KISW and importing that around the country. Yeah, I know—it’s nostalgic to think like this…but it was healthy.

The point is simply letting discovery happen. TRYING to discover. Never know what you might find.

Was on Opie & Anthony show the other day. We started talking about TV News. Those guys look at local TV news before they go on air…for material. Kinda says something about local TV news.


At 11:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lee....You are still cookin'. I never miss your blog.

My radio goes way back to KREM in Spokane in the Fifties.

Uncle Ralphie
Chama, New Mexico USA

At 3:00 PM, Blogger Wes Hightower said...

Are you calling the Sex pistols out as phonies, Lee?
As a child of the early 1970s i can't say as that I remember too much of them my first time 'round but they have become a staple in my music rotation on CD, tape and Vinyl throughout the years. I admit they claim to be anti-establishment but proceeded to sell records anyway I do believe that there was some real honesty to their work despite the "BLOODY SOD OFF" attitude portrayed in the media.
The most amusing part of their whole shebang is they are what used to pass for controversial, hide this from your grandparents and kids type of music.

At 6:37 PM, Anonymous Keep it Simple said...

Lee--Great blog and always enjoyable. The thing with the names drives me crazy, though. You wax poetic on a regular basis about cool, meaningless names. It's like having a colorful bumper sticker that wins awards and nobody can read. I've had XM for 18 months and I still need the little cheat sheet to tell Fred from Ethel from Lucy. I would just LOVE for you to call one of them Classic Alt Hits. (Deep Tracks I get--I like that, for example.) Save cool for the airsound and make the names stick, especially for folks who lead busy lives and love XM but just don't think about it all day, and certainly can't memorize the 20 channels they play. KIS

At 1:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK...trivia question:

What record label was Journey To The Center of the Mind on?

The band included some crazy young guitar player named Ted something.

At 1:30 PM, Blogger hime said...

Lee, does Pink Floyd really need help finding fans? Couldn't you have found somebody more relevant to talk about?

At 6:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hime, my friend. I don't mean to polish apples here, but if you read Lee's blog backlog... I think you might just find a flood of the relevance you're looking for.

Something to do this weekend.

At 2:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again, very interesting thoughts. I hope you get to put your stamp on more things

At 7:45 AM, Blogger jgreg65 said...

Pepe's rocks!! Worth a trip from anywhere!

At 7:24 PM, Anonymous Chuck Greif said...


I heard you discussing the future of news on O&A last week and enjoyed the discussion. I believe the future of news has already arrived and was carried on XM up until last October. The John Batchelor Show was well produced, informative, intellectual and highly entertaining. This program and the host took on topics in 10 or 12 minute segments via discussions with the news makers and reporters closest to the stories (NPR without the overt bias). The programming synthesized these seemingly disparate topics and current events into a larger theme of 21st century challenges balanced with the promise of technological and informational advancements that are sweeping the globe. His ability to put the news in perspective was like nothing I had ever heard or seen before. I am truly saddened by its abrupt end. His program was inexplicably cancelled while on the top of the ratings in New York City and in other top markets across the country. His listenership was put at 5 million a week. For more information, please examine samples of his program at his website at

I personally bought a couple of extra subscriptions to XM specifically to listen with ease to his program. I also introduced it to several of my co-workers and friends who also subscribed for that reason.

Thank you for your time and your continued push for radio excellence,

Chuck Greif

BTW -- Ethel rules!


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